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Walker Cup pair McClean and Nolan chasing teenager Tiernan – Irish Golfer Magazine

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Leaving Cert student Gavin Tiernan upstaged some big names to lead the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship after a blistering 65 at County Sligo Golf Club.

The County Louth golfer made a quick getaway to get some extra study done on Thursday evening after sprinting to the top of the leaderboard on six-under-par.

Tiernan skipped out of the traps with a birdie on the par-5 3rd before roaring to the summit with four successive birdies. He picked up further shots on 10 and 15 and despite bogeying the 17th he holds a one shot lead over Walker Cup pair Liam Nolan and Matthew McClean.

“I’m pretty happy with it. Just stuck to my strategy the whole day, was making sure I was putting myself on the right side of the pins because if you get above it it can get very tricky,” said Tiernan.

“Off the tee I was pretty good and got a nice run of birdies. It was a good start to the week. I feel like I have the game, just giving it time.

“I haven’t been playing too much recently so trying to stay patient with it. Nice to shoot a good score today.”

Tiernan was one of the later starters and it looked like the rounds of 66 from McClean and Nolan would stand tall for the day.

McClean, who finished second in the US recently, roared out the blocks with three birdies in five holes. The Malone man recovered from a bogey on 6 with back-to-back birdies.

The Belfast based optometrist picked up a shot on 12 but after handing it back on 13 he closed with a fine birdie on 18. Playing alongside his Walker Cup teammate Nolan and Scotland’s Gregor Graham (-2) it was a group that pulled each other along.

“Liam had 66 as well, we played together and Gregor played lovely as well, shot 69 so we fed off each other and played more good golf than bad golf anyway. It was gettable this morning until the 13th then the last five are always tricky coming into the wind. Made the score going out and let two pretty soft ones go out there but overall, pretty good,” said the former US Mid-Amateur winner.

“Me and Liam held a few nice putts throughout the round and none of us did an awful lot wrong. It was good playing with the two guys and hopefully we can do similar damage tomorrow.”

Conditions were benign which is rare for Rosses Point and scoring was low on Thursday morning.

“I birdied one, hit the ball to two foot, missed a chance on 2, birdied both par fives which gives you a head start,” added McClean. “They set the course up very fair today which was nice, you’re not used to playing golf courses where the pins are set up nice and the tees are up. I don’t think I will be leading at the end but I will be there or thereabouts.”

Galway’s Nolan made a grand return after seven months away studying for his final year exams in biomedical engineering in NUIG and his round of 66 was worth the wait.

“I played lovely from the first hole and my two playing partners were making birdies early so it was in my best interests to keep up. Hit some good golf shots and a couple of dropped shots in the wind coming home but made a nice birdie to top it off.

“I hit a lot of good shots on the front nine, a couple of good saves early on the back nine then birdied 12 and everyone knows County Sligo, on the way home into the wind can be a challenge.

“The greens are rolling pure, it’s as nice as you will get County Sligo but there is enough wind there to think about and you still have to hit great shots.”

Berehaven’s Joe O’Neill is just two shots off the pace on four-under after a 67.

Last year’s South of Ireland winner Colm Campbell was out in the second group at 7.11am and he posted a solid round of 68 which included a clean back nine of three birdies. Campbell sits alongside local golfers, TJ Ford and Ruairi O’Connor.

Warrenpoint’s Campbell is chasing a third Irish Amateur title.

“This tournament has been good to me, lucky enough to have won it twice but there’s still a long way to go I’m around long enough to know that there’s a long way to go to get it done.”

There is always an added pressure when playing a championship at home but Ford is enjoying being back at his home club and has a smile on his face.

“It’s always really enjoyable, I love coming home for a couple of days, everyone wishes you well too. I haven’t played as well as I would have liked over the last couple of years but it’s nice to get off to a good start. I love coming home and there’s always a great feel about the place.”

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